One of these that I feel is important, especially as they are being placed in more and more areas on the road, is the roundabout. It can be a bit intimidating the first time you try to navigate one, but you’ll be fine as long as you follow the tips provided in this article.
While roundabouts should always have signs telling you which lane goes where, where to yield for other drivers, and how to properly navigate them, not everyone knows how to properly navigate them, and this can lead to unnecessary accidents.
Though many do not see the use behind roundabouts, they are in fact designed to make intersections safer and much more efficient for all those involved, including pedestrians and cyclists.
They come in both single- and multi-lane structures, and we will cover how to navigate each. Before we get started, however, here are a few important key points to remember:
- Always yield to other drivers;
- Do not stop within the roundabout;
- Avoid driving next to oversized vehicles, especially transfer trucks;
- Stay in your lane at all times – DO NOT change lanes.
Roundabouts were originally only really seen in Europe, but over the last decade or so, they’ve become increasingly popular as a safer navigation system for intersections in North America.
The roundabouts we see today are much safer than the traffic circles used before, where you would have to enter, merge, circulate, change lanes, and exit, all at high speeds and all among other vehicles.
Roundabouts are much smaller and more efficient as long as drivers follow the signs and roundabout etiquette, and are able to be taken at a much slower, safer pace.
Though you may think that these constructions are a waste of time and space, there are actually several benefits to having roundabouts, as long as they are placed properly and have the proper signs:
- Traffic Safety – In a roundabout, traffic only moves in a single direction, so it completely eliminates the potential for right, left, and head-on collisions. Because of the speed at which they are navigated, rear-end collisions are reduced as well, which also reduces the potential and severity of injuries and vehicle damages in the event of a collision.
- Reduced Pollution – Roundabouts are designed to be an ever-flowing system, which greatly reduces fuel consumption and congestions, which means fewer actual stops and starts, and less time idling while waiting to turn.
- Pedestrian Safety – Because speeds are greatly reduced in roundabouts, this makes roundabouts safer for pedestrians, especially because they can walk around the perimeter sidewalks of them and cross only one direction of moving traffic at a time, if needed.
- Safe For All Vehicle Types – Modern roundabouts are built to accommodate large vehicles as well as small by use of a truck apron (the slightly raised area around the inner circle), which provides plenty of room for larger vehicles like trucks and buses to navigate safely.
- Cost Efficient – Roundabouts are less costly than traditional intersections because they eliminate the need for signal lights, lowering electricity costs, the cost of red light cameras, and even help to reduce noise.
How To: Single Lane And Multi-Lane Roundabouts
As promised, we’ll cover how to drive around both single lane and multi-lane roundabouts for those who either aren’t sure, or have never encountered one before.
Again, every roundabout should have signs indicating where and how to proceed to get to where you need to be, but not everyone knows how to read these, and they can be intimidating for a first-time roundabout navigator.
Single Lane Navigation
- Slow Down – As you near the roundabout, you should see a yellow “roundabout ahead” sign, complete with the advised speed limit and pedestrian warning signs.
- Check Your Left And Yield – While roundabouts are designed to be pretty much constantly flowing, you should always assume that someone is not going to do as directed. Always be prepared to stop for circulating traffic, as they have the right of way.
- Wait For A Gap And Enter – Do not cut someone off trying to get in; wait for a gap just as you would when entering a road from an exit, and once you enter the roundabout, don’t stop or try to overtake anyone.
- Proceed To Exit – You have the right of way once you’re in the roundabout, but you should still proceed with caution. You will always move counter-clockwise toward your exit.
- Exit – Use your signals as you approach your exit to let others know your intentions. Watch for pedestrians and cyclists, and be prepared to stop if someone is present.
- Slow Down – Again, you will see a yellow sign indicating the approach of a roundabout, but for these, you will also notice a choice for the lane you want to be in, so make sure you’re in the right lane for your eventual exit.
- Choose Your Lane (and stick with it) – To go straight or left, you’ll use the left lane. To go straight or right, you’ll use the right lane.
- Look Left and Yield – Check for those already in the roundabout, as they have the right of way, and carefully make your way in.
- Wait For A Gap And Enter – Once you’re in, STAY IN YOUR LANE. It is extremely dangerous to try and change lanes in a roundabout, due to your field of vision being skewed for the angle of the circle. Don’t stop or try to overtake anyone, and proceed with caution to your exit.
- Proceed To Exit – Again, you’ll move counterclockwise to your exit point, and you have the right of way to do so.
- Exit – Use your turn signal for your right or left turn, and keep an eye out for pedestrians or cyclists, staying prepared to stop if someone is present.
Issues With Roundabouts
Although we have cited some of the benefits of roundabouts in an earlier section, let’s also point out some of the issues associated with roundabouts.
The first thing that comes to mind is that roundabouts are specifically designed for the convenience of cars, pushing pedestrians, bicycles, and buses to make adjustments even if the roads are designed to be shared with them. So some critics thought that promoting the walkability of the roads should also be prioritized by road engineers as much as traffic flow.
Some point out that although roundabouts are designed to calm traffic, cars usually drive at high speed, making it more uncomfortable for pedestrians and cyclists.
When it comes to safety, although it was mentioned that roundabouts are supposed to reduce crashes, a study conducted by the Arizona State University in 2017 reveals that there are different results between a single-lane roundabout and multi-lane roundabout accidents.
Whereas single-lane roundabouts decrease accidents by 18%, the rate for multi-lane accidents increases to 60%. One thing to note though is that these crashes were less severe, which led to the conclusion that this is just because drivers are still getting used to roundabouts – so the tips above are even more helpful for you, ain’t they?
Meanwhile, first-time drivers may find roundabouts intimidating. Although it’s not like they can’t overcome this through more experience. Anyway, that’s why we have these “how to’s” here to help them out.
Driving schools also provide training for specific driving scenarios such as this. So if you’ve taken driver’s ed before, they might already have the basic idea, they just need to practice.